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The Advantages of Enrolling in a Medicare Supplement Plan Early

When you enroll in Medicare, you also have the chance to enroll in a Medicare supplement plan — more commonly known as Medigap. These add-on policies cover gaps in Original Medicare coverage. They help you pay your copays, coinsurance, and deductibles, so you do not have to pay out of pocket for them.

Enrolling in Medigap early, during your initial enrollment period, ensures you get lower prices and more policy choices. During this time, you can choose any Medigap policy sold in your state regardless of your medical history. If you wait until after your enrollment period, Medigap policies can cost more based on your current or past health problems.

When Is the Earliest You Can Enroll In Medigap?

The earliest you can enroll in Medigap is during your initial enrollment period. Your Medigap enrollment period begins the first day of the first month you have Medicare Part B and are 65 or older. You can enroll in Medicare Part B when you turn 65, so technically, the earliest you can sign up for a Medigap plan is your 65th birthday.

The Medigap initial enrollment period lasts for six months. For example, if you sign up for Medicare Part B right away, and your birthday is June 1, you have until Dec. 1 to select your Medigap plan during the initial enrollment period.

Eligibility Criteria

To enroll in a Medigap plan, you must be 65 or older and enrolled in Medicare Part B. Some states offer Medigap plans for people under 65 who enrolled in Medicare early, but these plans do not cover people with end-stage renal disease.

During your 6-month enrollment period, you can buy any plan offered in your state regardless of your health. However, after this enrollment period, you may not be eligible, as insurance companies require medical underwriting as a provision for coverage acceptance.

Why Enroll In Medicare Supplement Insurance Early?

Medicare supplement insurance is useful because it can cover the copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles that your Part B insurance does not. Adding this coverage as soon as possible means you may pay fewer medical bills over time. Even if you’re in good health now, you may require more medical care as you get older, and Medigap policies can make this healthcare more affordable. Additionally, you have more plan options to choose from, guaranteed acceptance, and guaranteed pricing when you sign up early.

While your Medigap coverage does not start until you turn 65, you can apply early if you’ve applied for Medicare early. You’re allowed to sign up for Medicare three months prior to your 65th birthday for coverage starting the month you turn 65. If you already have your Medicare claim number, you can submit your Medigap application in advance of your Part B start date.

Full Range of Plan Options

There are 10 different standardized Medigap plans that cover various healthcare expenses at differing amounts. As long as you sign up for Medigap during your initial enrollment period, you can choose between any of these.

Not every insurance plan offers every type of Medigap policy, so you may have to shop around to find the one that’s right for you. However, insurance companies have to offer Plan A if they offer any Medigap policies. There is one caveat — Plans C and F are no longer available to new Medicare enrollees, so these may not be an option for you except in limited circumstances.

If You Enroll Later

If you delay choosing a plan, you may not be eligible for every plan. That’s because insurance companies can use medical underwriting to deny you coverage after your enrollment period. If they see your medical history and think you might cost them a lot of money, they may limit you to lower coverage plans.

Guaranteed Acceptance

During your initial enrollment period, insurance companies are not allowed to use medical underwriting to deny you coverage. This means you can choose from the full spectrum of plans, no matter your health. Therefore, if you think you might otherwise be denied coverage, enrolling early is especially important.

If You Enroll Later

After your initial enrollment period, insurance companies are allowed to use medical underwriting to deny you coverage. They may refuse to sell you a plan if they think you’re too high risk. For example, if you have heart disease, they may not want to insure you because you may need more medical care than someone without a medical condition.

Same Pricing No Matter Your Health

Insurance companies can decide on the pricing of the Medigap policies they offer. However, during your open enrollment period, they cannot charge you more for being in bad health. Instead, they charge you the set rate they charge everyone else.

This can be a huge money saver, especially if you think your health problems may limit your plan options later in life. Your provider can change the cost of your Medigap policy in the future if they use an attained-age-rated policy, but they are not allowed to raise it if you suddenly develop a new health condition. 

If You Enroll Later

If you wait too long to enroll, the health insurance provider can use your medical history to determine the price of your policy. In many cases, this means you may end up paying more, as the insurance company can decide that even minor conditions make you riskier to insure.

How to Enroll During Your Initial Enrollment Period

The steps are quite simple to follow if you’ve entered your initial enrollment period and are ready to sign up for a Medigap policy.

  1. Pick your plan. Look at the benefits of each plan and see which one makes sense for your needs.
  2. Find an affordable policy. See which insurance companies offer the plan you’ve picked. Compare policies directly through Medicare, contact your StateHealth Insurance Assistance Program, or call your state insurance department for more help. 
  3. Get official quotes from several companies. Since plans are standardized, the only difference between policies is price. Therefore, you can feel safe choosing a lower-priced plan.
  4. Apply for the policy. This may include answering medical questions and providing your Medicare information. You may also have to include a check or money order for your first month’s premium before coverage can begin.

How to Enroll Outside of Your Initial Enrollment Period

Enrolling for Medigap outside of your initial enrollment period is a similar process. However, you may not have every plan available to choose from, so you might need to contact the insurance company earlier in the process.

  1. Pick your plan. Even though you might not have access to every plan, make a list of the ones you prefer to make the shopping process easier.
  2. Ask insurance companies for a quote. It may still help to browse Medicare’s policy directory to see which providers are available in your state. However, the prices listed are likely for initial enrollment, so contact the company directly for a more accurate quote based on your medical history.
  3. Apply for the policy. After you’ve found an affordable company, complete your application. Your rate may change slightly during the official application process as the company completes the medical underwriting process.

Don’t Delay, Enroll Today (or As Soon As You’re Eligible!)

Enrolling early in Medicare supplement plans can save you money, provide you with more coverage options, and give you guaranteed acceptance into any plan you choose. Even if you’re relatively healthy now, you could develop health problems down the road that increase your medical bills. 

Medigap coverage takes away some of the financial burdens of healthcare expenses. If you’re about to turn 65, start comparing plans now so you’re ready to choose one once you enroll in Medicare. You might even start getting quotes from a few companies to begin budgeting out your monthly premiums.

You’re just a few steps away from seeing your Medicare Advantage plan options.

Find a plan

You’re just a few steps away from seeing your Medicare Advantage plan options.

Find a plan